My 1960s Memories has proved popular, so here is another: Shopping.
There is a permanent page for Memories of the 1960s here.
Shopping was confusing in the 1960s, even if you only had pocket money of one shilling to spend, as I did.
The old system of currency could be traced back to the Roman Empire and was based on the penny, symbolised by the letter ‘d’ for denari. Under this system, there were 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings, or 240 pence, in a pound. Needless to say, for a kid whose mathematical skills were still developing, I needed one of my parents with me to shop for anything at all!
My new romantic spy novel Screaming Angels published!
To celebrate, I will be giving away one, signed copy of Screaming Angels to my Newsletter readers in a competition on 16 October at 5pm BST. To sign up for the Newsletter before then, click here or go to the menu at the top of this page.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without turkey and if indigestion hasn’t already set in, maybe there’s space for a bit more? What is your top nomination for movie Turkeys? It doesn’t have to be a Christmas movie but just one so bad that you either reach for the remote or fall asleep.
How to spot a Turkey Movie
Turkey movies can be hard to pick out: you often don’t remember their names or who’s in them. But of course if its a sequel or a remake it has a very good chance of being a Turkey! Some movies are so bad they are actually fun and good for a few laughs. These aren’t those movies.
Here are some of mine. Add yours, either by commenting or on Facebook or Twitter.
Breakthrough – 1979: This sequel to the iconic Cross of Iron had nothing to recommend it except Richard Burton so drunk he had to be carried onto the set every day.
The Hobbit Trilogy – 2012/13/14: Sorry if I just made you choke on your chockies or turkey but, as a lifelong fan of Tolkien books, I think this trilogy lacks the quaint charm of the original or the grandeur of Lord of the Rings. The director tried to stretch and I am afraid he broke it. I reserve opinion on the dragon one because so far I haven’t seen it! Virgin Media doesn’t have it and it seems to have escaped schedulers on TV although the others haven’t!
At the Earth’s Core – 1976: This beauty stars Doug McClure (remember Trampas from The Virginian?) and Peter Cushing. Its kind of like Journey to the Centre of the Earth but with props you can throw together from scrap at a film studio. The beasts (whose name escapes me!) are just people dressed up and the WORST SPECIAL EFFECT I have ever seen. Watch out for Cy Grant (who did the voice for Captain Scarlet), the lovely Caroline Munro and a young Keith Baron. Oh and in case you are wondering, the film is so bad its almost good, but Cushing’s bumbling professor is just too over the top to get this film off the hook. In some scenes you can almost see McClure thinking, “Are they actually going to release this?”
Alexander – 2004: Colin Farrel stars as Alexander the Great. I think he must have resented doing this film because he actually exaggerates his own Irish accent and the film just becomes absurd! Truly un-watchable.
The Man with the Iron Fists – 2012: I can only think they got Russell Crowe to do this by promising to make The Water Diviner. It has Asian orgies (including Crowe going down on a few girls!!!), martial arts, a kind of Iron Man think going and just about everything else. I stuck with it but it was clear it was just a vehicle for the rapper who starred in it. Set in the mid 19th Century??? possibly??? when the baddies came on wearing Ray Bans I was shouting at the screen “Nooooooo!”
Babylon A.D. – 2008: Well, what can I say except that I fell asleep after half an hour. I wouldn’t include it but for the fact I woke half hour before the end and the end was as bad as the beginning. Just boring!
Reunion in France – 1942: This monstrosity stars John Wayne as US pilot shot down over France and trying to escape with the help of a bourgeois woman. Forgetting that Wayne was far too old to play a front line pilot by then (and probably too tall!), he doesn’t bother to act, the sets are probably cardboard and the plot would be more appropriate in an Abbott and Costello film! Why on earth Wayne’s characters have to give the lead female a male nickname I dunno, but it kind of makes me queasy in this case (Michelle becomes Mike!).
Living Free – 1972: This sequel to Born Free probably ended up in the bins of cinemas faster than any other movie in that decade. Watch it if you dare!
The Silver Chalice – 1954: Paul Newman’s first starring role. If you can get beyond the first ten minutes, please call us or a doctor; you need medical attention.
The Secret Invasion – 1954: I wish I could say this was Stewart Grainger’s last movie. That would at least offer him some excuse but it wasn’t. If you wanted to make a war movie on the tightest budget possible, this would be one way. The only props are a few sub-machine guns. Dire! Dire! Dire!
The Battle of the Last Panzer – 1969: My third war movie looks promising but isn’t.
There are apparently some William Shatner films, made in Europe in the early 70s, that are so bad they will never see the like of day. If anybody has seen one, let me know!
Hope this didn’t give you indigestion! Let me have your nominations by commenting. Nominations end 3 January. Then we vote!
There is a permanent page for Memories of the 1960s here.
In many ways this is the hardest post I have made about the 1960s and it has taken me a long time to decide to make it. Many writers have tried and failed to capture the magic and disillusionment of 60s music and I most surely must fail too. But that won’t stop me ‘taking a shot’ at it, as Americans like to say, or ‘having a ago’ as Brits like to say.
I am not just talking about something in remote history when I talk about music from that era; I actually remember music of the 1960s. The first song I remember is Puppet on a String, which of course won the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest (yes, we had it then too!) for Sandie Shaw. I would have been 5 but I well remember the catchy tune blasting out of BBC Radio 1 on our little, blue radio set in the kitchen, or in my bedroom when I was sick, which was often.
I also remember Windmill in Old Amsterdam (There was a mouse! Where? There on the Stair!) by Ronnie Hilton. This was a hit in 1965 so I may not actually remember hearing the original recording on the radio but my mum sang it to me a lot. I think she was trying to teach me to sing.
The first Beatles song I remember is Yellow Submarine; a hit in 1969. Somebody played it at my school during a break and almost all the children danced spontaneously to it in the playground. The strange thing is that we thought this song must have been ancient; around since the beginning of time. We put it in the same bracket as hymns, nursery rhymes and folk songs, something that people had sung since the dawn of time. I laugh now to think this but we also put Cat Stevens’ Morning has Broken in the same category, classing it as a hymn, would you believe?
I was often ill in my childhood so stuck at home and my mum would always put the radio by my bed at these times to keep me company. I listen to a lot of contemporary music, usually on Radio 1. Now you might think that listening to the radio would bring me a cornucopia of psychedelic songs from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Mamas and the Papas and so on. But you would be wrong.
First of all, Radio 1 was pretty conservative in what they broadcast and the mornings were usually divided up between Jimmy Young and Jimmy Saville. They played The Beatles, but stuck to the more traditional songs like Yesterday, Yellow Submarine, Help! and a few other of the older hits like From me To You. I don’t remember hearing any Rolling Stone except perhaps Satisfaction later in the 60s.
And I didn’t have access to Radio Caroline, the pirate radio station broadcast from a former light ship, moored in the English Channel and manned by such luminary figures as Emperor Rosko, Kenny Everett and Tony Blackburn.
In fact, I don’t think I could even get Radio Luxembourg in the Chiltern Hills, where we lived. Even some TV programmes would phase out in poor weather conditions. Twiddle as I might with the tuning knob on the radio, I remained stuck with Radio 1, 2 and 4, a few French stations and possibly the occasional bit of static from Germany and Russia.
But what I did get was a wealth of what I would call medium level Brit bands like The Small Faces, Steampacket (featuring a very young Rod Stewart), Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich (Bend It was played a lot on Radio One), Mary Hopkin. I was also subjected to a welter of novelty records by people like Max Bygraves, Benny Hill, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and Peter Sellers, but the less said about them the better! Incidentally, the eagle-eyed among you will have spotted the name of the main character in my book, The Ice Boat, among the list of acts above.
These bands were unashamedly British and flaunted it, often regressing into a kind of Cockney utopian vision as their careers progressed. This may have been in imitation of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper, which was a paean to Englishness if ever there was one. But while Sergeant Pepper sounded almost triumphant, combining as it did Englishness with a hunger for a global culture, other bands would find this road harder and end up becoming more inward looking.
A good example is The Small Faces, hence my choice of image for the head of this post. Itchycoo Park was catchy and the writers even now claim they attempted some kind of commentary on the extreme trajectory of hippy culture with it. This drug-fueled culture pervaded everything in England at the time; even my father, who was a conservative voter, wore flared trousers. So you would have thought this song would be refreshing. It was certainly catchy and I remember it being only second to I’d like to Teach the World To Sing for the frequency with which it was played.
But the problem was that the producers of the record had gone for a ‘light’ feel. It sounded so upbeat that you couldn’t possibly see it as anything other than a catchy ditty. The Small Faces‘ Lazy Sunday was even worse, featuring the feigned Cockney accent which Steve Marriot began to use so heavily. I’m sorry to say that many lead singers in the 1960s used the Cockney accent to show how British they were. It probably wasn’t their fault; few bands would have had as much control over their music as the Beatles and most would have been forced to go for the common denominator, which turned out to be light, breezy songs which neither threatened or challenged anyone. Later the Cockney accent would be used by Bowie to better effect but that’s another story.
The Small Faces album really entered the realm of mystical Englishness with their album Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake. Take a look at the cover opposite!
It’s almost as if they are trying to contact, through the medium of music, some spirit of bygone Englishness. And you find a lot of bands doing this. Whether they were pining for better days – going through some valedictory last hoorah! – I don’t know but things certainly seemed to implode. There was no widespread embracing of different cultures from abroad, no quest for the global village. This came only from The Beatles and a a few other very select bands. Instead, on Radio 1, which I guess most people were forced to listen to, just like me, we had a headlong dive back to essential, conservative Englishness which led us into the more insular and sombre 70s.
So what did we have at the peak of the 60s explosion of music? Well forget Hendrix! I didn’t even know about his existence until I was in my late teens, and my dad listened to Santana, Osibisa and Gong in the late 60s, so he was no slouch in musical taste! No, even he hadn’t heard of Jimi Hendrix. Instead we had a paper-thin serving of art in our music. It was almost like a papier mâché utopia, a cardboard Heaven that could be cut through by the pre-pubescent mind of any 5-year old. Indeed, as a 5 year old in 1967, I often felt the music was too childish for me! I tended to seek out classical music quite often as a respite – yes I even turned the dial surreptitiously to Radio 4.
In short, what most of us were subjected to, day in, day out, in the music on Radio 1 was a kind of artistic, cardboard world. I wouldn’t call it a mediocre world, for that word would be too harsh. But it certainly was one that could be knocked down or seen through by any over-curious child, or could be dissembled just as easily and reassembled somewhere else on Earth where it might be wanted. But it never was.
What are your memories of the 1960s? Leave a comment below.
Another great vote this week; which is the best scifi vehicle of all time?
The choice is HUGE but below are just a few suggestions to get you started. Please nominate your favourites by commenting here or tweet me @Lazlo_F or message me on Facebook. The nomination deadline will be 22 June at 5pm. Then we will vote!
Ein weiterer großer Stimme in dieser Woche; Welches ist das beste SciFi Fahrzeug aller Zeiten?
Die Auswahl ist riesig Gewinn Hier sind nur ein paar Vorschläge, um Ihnen den Einstieg. Bitte benennen Sie Ihre Favoriten von hier zu kommentieren oder tweet ich Lazlo_F gold Nachricht auf mich Facebook. Der Nominierungsfrist wird am 22. Juni 17.00 Uhr sein. Dann werden wir abstimmen!
Un autre grand vote cette semaine; qui est le meilleur véhicule de scifi de tous les temps?
Le choix est énorme, mais ci-dessous sont quelques suggestions pour vous aider à démarrer. S’il vous plaît nommer vos favoris en commentant ici ou tweet moi Lazlo_F ou un message moi sur Facebook. La date limite de mise en candidature sera de 22 Juin à 17 heures. Ensuite, nous allons voter!
To tie in with my recent series on Memories of the 1960s, I am running a competition. It won’t be easy but then my books are worth it! Name all five of the following correctly and win a free eBook of any of my published novels. Entries close at midnight GMT Sunday, 5 October 2014. Please comment with your entry to claim your prize! There is a bonus object to win 2 eBooks!
(car manufacturer and type)
(car manufacturer and type)
(car manufacturer and type)
Note: For all toy cars, I don’t want the toy manufacturer but only the manufacturer and type of the real car.
If you can name this gem (not actually a toy but close) as well, you win 2 eBooks!
This week: Profits from eBooks! and: Memories of the 1960s: Issue V – School
Memories of the 1960s: Issue V – School
Prepare to have all the myths of how school was Heaven in the 60s blasted away and for myths that it was Hell to be destroyed. This is what it was like for me.
I spent my school years, until the age of fourteen, in Buckinghamshire. Now, I am not saying the true-blue ultra-conservative Buckinghhamshire is backward but the last time I looked at the council’s website it had chains running down each side! That was back in the 90s. In the 60s, they were just about as blue as you can get and they certainly believed in giving every child’s sanity a run for its money.
The Bucks model of education was simple: your kid had to pass their eleven-plus exam to get a proper education. Anything else was failure and rewarded with being sent to a ‘secondary-modern,’ which in Bucks meant a school for dunces. There you would never get the chance to do O’Levels or A’Levels and you would certainly never go to University. So every day of your school life, you were having the message ‘Success is everything’ rammed down your throat. Unfortunately, the flip-side of this philosophy was the message that ‘humanity is nothing.’ It was only many years later that we would all discover Hans Eysenick’s IQ based formula for the eleven-plus exam was all based on fake research.
My first memory is of the first day. I was five. I somehow managed to annoy the teachers, Mrs Barnes and Mrs Farrow, and was made to stand in the corner. My reputation as a trouble-maker seemed to grow from there. But in general, being made to sit next to girls and getting to play in the sun for hours couldn’t have seemed too bad in 1967. I actually remember many of us dancing to Yellow Submarine in the playground, a year later. We thought the song was a traditional song!
The School Day
Our day would begin with assembly, basically a church meeting complete with prayers and hymns, followed by our first lesson, a break of 15 minutes and another lesson until lunch at 12 noon. At 1 pm, later extended to 1.15 pm, we would have another lesson, then another break at 2 pm, followed by the last lesson and then home at 3 pm.
Once or twice per week, a whole morning or afternoon would be give over to sports. We had to play in any weather and in fact, we had to spend every break-time outside, even in the direst thunderstorm or the worst snow. Nobody questioned this. Undoubtedly the weirdest ‘sports’ experience I had was when we were split into pairs of a boy and girl and told to slap each other’s legs as hard as we could. I was lucky enough to be paired with Shirley, who was to become the love of my life after this! She had dark, curly hair, darting, intelligent eyes and the looks of a Thomas Hardy heroine although she said she had gypsy blood. I learned that she had strong legs too after slapping them for ten minutes. Why the Bucks education system considered this an acceptable game, I couldn’t tell you. Perhaps they thought a bit of S&M would teach women their places. Anyway, Shirley, if you are out there, sorry I was so good at slapping your legs.
With the baby-boom in full swing, class sizes rose to 58, in the case of mine. It was a scandal that was reported in the papers and parents protested. But there was nothing to be done. Nothing, that is, except get the children to teach. Yes! I’m not lying. As the best reader in my class, I was given my own remedial reading class which I took under the stairs near the entrance to the main block. It was a challenge because most of my small class of perhaps 8 readers had dyslexia. I can’t remember if I managed to improve their reading. I just knew they had a problem. It was only two years later, that one of those pupils, by this time a friend, was diagnosed with dyslexia.
Time to dish the dirty: school dinners in Bucks were crap! In fact, not only crap, but most of the time, inedible. All would be served in stainless steel containers, even the water, which was our only drink. The steel gave everything a certain ‘tang.’ I particularly hated the pilchards which were pickled in vinegar and tomato sauce. I hate vinegar anyway, it makes me sick, and the tomatoes used were so stewed that you couldn’t tell what they were any more. I used to hide my pilchards under the scoop of Smash (commercial mash potato which tasted like cotton wool). But then, Mrs Parks, the most evil teacher in the school, wised up to my technique and forced me to eat it while she held my spoon-hand firmly. I warned her:
“I will be sick on you if you make me eat this.”
She ignored me and, consequently, I vomited all over her skirt.
Besides the teachers, local women came in for lunchtime to watch over us, while the heads of each table, usually two children from the senior year, would serve the food frim the metal containers. We called them ‘Serving Ladies,’ one being Mrs. Rance.
Other odd dishes were: the strawberry blancmange which tasted of lipstick and stuck to the plate if you turned it upside down; swede; parsnips and jam pudding. All were prepared so badly that they put me off such food forever.
The only dishes I liked were: fried cod; semolina and chocolate sauce; chocolate sponge cake and shortcake biscuits with dollops of strawberry jam on top. In fact, a friend and I tried to eat as many portions of fried cod as we could and made ourselves sick this way!
A special mention has to go out here to Douglas McKelvie, the head teacher, and the best teacher, of the school. I had him in my last year and hated him at first. He had the habit of running across the desk tops or flicking chalk at you, if you talked. He would often sit a boy next to a girl just to see what happened. In fact, even though I was desperate to sit next to Shirley, he put me next to Alison, a pretty blonde. The strange thing was that a few months later, my sister and I were sent to stay at the Alison’s house for the week before Christmas. To the eternal anthem of Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody (video) I tried to puzzle out what was going on. There were many things I didn’t understand about the Buckinghamshire education system; why did they line us all up from time to time and inject us with strange things called ‘typhoid jabs’ or run eye tests that showed us we had deficient vision and then try to force us to wear thick lenses which clearly (pun intended) made things worse? Why did they get boys to slap girls’ legs? But most of all, I wanted to know why the parents and school seemed to be in league, matchmaking, or indeed match-breaking, pupils?
In the autumn of 1974, it all came crashing to a ugly, heartbreaking halt for me. They had wanted to know my IQ for so long that I thought it might be some kind of biological substance inside me. Was I toxic? Every few weeks, we were given these strange tests called ‘mocks’. And then, without warning, I came to school one day and found the classroom desks equipped with a pencil, eraser and a stapled examination paper. It was the eleven-plus exam. There were three papers, the last in February or March. I did well at the first two and I had no reason to worry; I had scored 86% in the last mock exam. But late in the spring, the awful ‘results day’ came.
Buckinghamshire Council didn’t mess about. Douglas McKelvie called out each of our names and we went to the front of the class to collect our white envelope. If it was fat, you had passed but if it was thin, you were going to a secondary modern. Mine was thin.
Whether you liked it or not, within minutes, everyone knew everyone else’s results. Shirley has passed and would go on to Dr. Challoners High School for girls, the best school in the area. But worse than this, my friend, who had passed, and I had a fight. I don’t know for certain what it was about; my memory is that he teased me about failing and I insulted him back, calling him fat. That may be wrong. In any case, we ended up, that very day, on the playground tarmac, fighting it out. It was dirty and no-holds-barred. It was my first fight and I won. That I do remember clearly.
Was that the last time I saw Shirley? Actually, no. I cried for days at my own failure. Never has failure been driven home so absolutely as it was in Buckinghamshire. I lost most of my friends that day and I lost most of my hopes and dreams. Later, I would be saved when my parents moved to a different, more progressive county. Before the end of term, another girl organised a birthday for the summer holidays. I wasn’t invited. But I lobbied hard and managed to get in. It was a ‘Tramps’ party, in which you had to dress up as a – tramp. Who should be there but Shirley. My little autograph book had been all round the class on the last day of term and had every signature, except hers because she had been on holiday with her friends. Now was my chance to steal something! We played spin-the-bottle, a kissing game, and a kiss from Shirley would certainly be something worth stealing. Now, I have to mention here that Shirley had always been nice to me, she had taught me Origami under the stairs, but I had never had the guts to tell her how I felt, so I couldn’t call her my sweetheart. I had certainly never kissed her. But I was hopeful. In the end, the kissing gods were not on my side and I didn’t get the chance to kiss her. I didn’t even have the guts to ask her for a dance. I might well have said to myself:
“Welcome to the real world!”
What are your memories of the 1960s? Leave a comment below.
Finally, I have made a profit from a promotional campaign to promote one of my eBooks, Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate. We’re not talking big figures here, in fact, well less than $100. Nevertheless, It has taken me over a year to find something that works. From what other writers are telling me, it’s getting harder and harder to rake in the cash for eBooks. But I managed to beat the odds, at least once. Read on for how I did it:
I have tried marketing using twitter, Facebook paid adverts and google’s AdSense. For free downloads, Facebook’s adverts worked best but you are looking at upwards of $40 to get a couple of thousand downloads if you’re lucky. Of course, there is no money in that!
I have tried for almost a year (since hearing about them) to get on Bookbub and E Reader News Today (ENT) . I am still trying to get accepted for Bookbub, which costs at least $110, depending on genre, but have so far have been unsuccessful. I finally managed to get on ENT about a month ago and, what is more, they scheduled me for 5th July, a day after American Independence Day. I was delighted. But I wasn’t convinced it would draw any sales. Consequently, I signed up for (initially) 1 day of tweets from The Book Tweeting service. This was to be on the 4th July, just to get things going. It wouldn’t help the other sales but it’s always good to coordinate these things to get the highest rank possible. High Rank = More Sales.
By Saturday 5th July, I had seen no sales at all from hundreds of tweet to over 100,000 potential customers. I cancelled the second day of tweets although I must say, the staff were very friendly and helpful and did their best.
However, by midnight of the Saturday, I had already seen 8 solid sales from the E Reader News Today service. It works! I was delighted and will try them again, if they will have me.